CASE CLOSED … what really happened in the 2001 anthrax attacks?

* Jim White … the FBI has not provided an adequate account of how Dr. Ivins was able to culture such a large number of spores without being detected.

Posted by DXer on February 25, 2010

CASE CLOSED by Lew Weinstein

is the novel which answers the question …

why did the FBI fail to solve the 2001 anthrax case?

* buy CASE CLOSED at amazon *


Could Dr. Ivins have produced all of the anthrax spores used in the attacks?

Jim White’s conclusion (posted 2/22/10) …

In short, the FBI has provided a feasible account of how Ivins could have dried the spores and loaded them into letters, but it has not provided an adequate account of how he was able to culture such a large number of spores without being detected.

to read Jim White’s impressive analysis, click …

see related posts …

* Jim White believes a 100-fold math error in the Amerithrax investigation improperly excluded suspects … do you agree?

* Old Atlantic in response to Jim White

36 Responses to “* Jim White … the FBI has not provided an adequate account of how Dr. Ivins was able to culture such a large number of spores without being detected.”

  1. Old Atlantic said

    Reply to Dxer

    “In 1996, the U.S. Department of Defense stated that Pakistan “had the resources and capabilities appropriate to conducting research and development relating to biological warfare,” and “was conducting research and development with potential biological warfare applications.””


    India Pakistan biological warfare

    India Pakistan bioweapons


    India and Pakistan are rivals. They both tested nuclear weapons in 1998. Both were put on sanctions, but these hit Pakistan much harder.

    India and Pakistan do not trust each other. They fought the Kargil war in 1999 with their own troops against each other. India won that.

    Both countries have advanced scientists who have won the Nobel Prize. Neither country is going to allow the other to have a WMD capability the other can not match. This includes biowarfare. Pakistan lists itself as the 5th largest milk producer and India also is known to have a thing with cows.

    Both India and Pakistan have the capability to deal with anthrax. India offered anthrax vaccine to the US. Pakistan has staff for dealing with anthrax according to its own webpages.

    Developing a new method to add silicon to anthrax above known amounts is the work of a scientific institute such as Pakistan’s NIH. If renowned US institutions have difficulty with it then it indicates its the work of scientific institutions that have the ability to do measurements on density of silicon in anthrax, etc. We have seen that this work has been done by US institutes of high scientific capability. Thus we should look first to a country with advanced scientists and advanced institutes such as Pakistan’s NIH.

    The attack anthrax contained high levels of silicon. This is a fact that every theory or hypothesis has to deal with. This is true for the FBI as well as authors or bloggers. That high level of silicon required experimentation to develop and to measure, the type done in a scientific institute with apparatus for doing measurements of all kinds based on biological, chemical, and physical methods and expertise.

    • DXer said

      The documentary evidence relating to means, motive, modus opportunity points exclusively to the fellow who announced he was going to use anthrax and not at all — not one bit — toward Pakistan.

      “The attack anthrax contained high levels of silicon.”

      Ike, what is your explanation for the reason for the Silicon Signature in Flask 1030. If people don’t understand the reason for the Silicon Signature in Flask 1030, then they shouldn’t be commenting on the Silicon Signature. Mr. Epstein’s OpEd overlooked the Slicon Signature in Flask 1030. This Silicon Signature in Flask 1030 is a fact that every theory or hypothesis has to deal with. See also Sandia Powerpoints re variability, Dr. Ivins March 1998 experiment on encapsulation, his heat shocking, and everything in the record about Ivins and silica. Most people commenting — to include Ed — haven’t even read the record. People should be quoting the record or documentary evidence. If your interest is silica, then you should be quoting the record about that.

      • DXer said

        Now let’s distinguish between documentary evidence pointing to Pakistan as opposed to documentary evidence found in Pakistan.

        For example, spraydrying documents were found in the home of respected bacteriologist Abdul Qadoos Khan. His son was in the Pakistan military. It showed culturing over 30 days and then drying using a spraydrier.

        I view this documentary evidence as admissible against KSM and al-Hawsawi rather than Pakistan.

        • DXer said

          Or let’s consider the correspondence between Rauf Ahmad and Zawahiri. ISI ran interference and wouldn’t let the CIA have contact with him starting in 2003.
          I view that as pointing to Zawahiri rather than Pakistan. On its face, it contemplated infiltration of Western biodefense and the use of charities and universities as cover.

          Of course, ISI should be faulted for obstructing the investigation — it is ridiculous to give them millions absent cooperation. The documentary evidence showed without doubt that he was helping Zawahiri develop anthrax as a weapon.

        • DXer said

          Or let’s consider the documentary evidence found on Aafia, after years of being in the custody, she says, of Pakistan ISI.

          She says she was tasked to study germ weapons by Abu Lubaba, a writer for the religious party. I view that as pointing to Aafia rather than the ISI given her long support for KSM, his nephew, the blind sheik, etc. and focus on appropriations.

          But I can see how the ISI keeps popping up — never entirely clearly as part of the solution rather than part of the problem.

        • DXer said

          Or let’s consider the eyewitness evidence and documentary evidence taken from the Taliban vaccine laboratory. I view that as pointing to the Taliban rather than the ISI, though of course factions of the ISI are supporters of the Taliban.

          I guess my point only would be that start with the documentary evidence and then consider where it takes you.

          Here, all of the evidence is corroborative of Ayman Zawahiri’s stated intent to use anthrax to retaliate for the rendering of senior EIJ leaders, to include blind sheik Abdel-Rahman (but there were many more). The real deal was sent immediately after the bail was denied VOC #2 was denied — just as had been threatened. See CIA PDB to President Bush.

      • Old Atlantic said

        “If people don’t understand the reason for the Silicon Signature in Flask 1030, then they shouldn’t be commenting on the Silicon Signature.”

        So what is the reason for the “Silicon Signature in Flask 130”?

        Also do we have to understand why Signature Silicon is capitalized?

  2. Old Atlantic said

    Comments on silicon. First thanks to Ed Lake on posting the percentages of silicon here. I found the same numbers on his webpage and more info but I couldn’t find a link or source cited for them. My searches didn’t find one either. If Ed has the source, please indicate it.

    Taking those percentages as given, they partially exclude other sources of the anthrax other than a regrowth with silicon. This is taking the science or claim that they were grown and silicon not added as valid.

    The lab techs of Ivins grew other anthrax according to the FBI. The FBI wrote it couldn’t find where that went. This couldn’t have been used because to any large extent because of the 75 percent spores with silicon. At most 25 percent of the spores can be from some other source. That also limits how much was used from RMR-1029.

    The 75 percent of spores having silicon by growth, not added later, is a restrictive condition on the source.

    The 1.45 percent by weight for one of the letters is not obtainable in the experiments done and referenced in September 2009 on the Case Closed blog.

    The weight percentage shows extended experimentation that included measuring the amount and varying the method to increase it. That excludes Ivins since he could not have replicated even the experiments done in the reference cited without it being known and using measurement devices that would be known to his lab mates and possibly not even available at Ft. Detrick.

    Thus Ivins is excluded even if a method is found after more experimentation that is feasible with Ivins’ equipment because Ivins couldn’t do the experimentation including measurement of the silicon levels to find the method that could be used with his equipment, if such exists.

    Given the excessive experimentation tried already with failure, it indicates a national program that worked on this as part of their intended authorized day work. That excludes Ivins.

    A national program with advanced knowledge of 9/11 to get ready would suggest Pakistan. Pakistan’s motive would be to support 9/11 to get sanctions lifted on its nuclear program. (Search Pakistan sanctions unjust. This gives pre 9/11 complaints by Pakistan along with fears that Bush would lift sanctions on India but not Pakistan in the week before 9/11 in a US op-ed by friends of Pakistan.)

    Pakistan had the motive to use 9/11 to get sanctions lifted and then use anthrax to divert attention to domestic US terrorists.

    Pakistan could do extensive experimentation with silicon and also get info from those who had left the Soviet program which had had a large installation in Central Asia in a now independent Muslim country, Kazakhstan.

    Methods to get this level of silicon may include electromagnetic or cascaded centrifuges to separate based on density selecting spores that had higher uptake. These would be similar to the separation techniques for uranium and would occur and be feasible to a weapons lab program in Pakistan already working with nuclear wmd.

    • DXer said

      Absolute nonsense. The documentary evidence reflects an intent to use anthrax and efforts to develop anthrax for the use of anthrax against US targets only by Ayman Zawahiri and the scientists he was recruiting cover under charities and universities.

      There is zero evidence relating to the country, Pakistan.

      Why do people feel so free to depart from documentary expression of intent and access and modus operandi? And simply to ignore it where it exists to the documents seized in Afghanistan.

      Enough with the irresponsible theories. Either cite documents and physical evidence in support or sit down.

      1. Does this document seized in Afghanistan point to infiltration of US biodefense?

      2. Ayman Zawahiri’s correspondence with infiltrating scientist Rauf Ahmad

      3. Infiltration of US Biodefense: Dugway

      4. Bruce Ivins email – concern samples were missing

      5. Was code used in the letters?

      6. Discovery Hall

      7. Ayman’s recruiting network for his anthrax planning and the announcement of his plans in March 1999

      8. order not to talk to Bruce

      9. 100 ml discrepancy

  3. Anonymous Scientist said

    page 14 at:


    Ivins noted that the ratio of spores to media for B anthracis in a liquid preparation is approximately 10^8 spores per milliliter. Therefore, it would take 20 litres of media to make 2 grams of spores.


    RMR-1029 consisted of intially 30g of spores that resulted from several large production runs at Dugway in a ferementer plus some flask runs at Detrick. The total liquid volume needed was 164 litres (as outlined in detial in the NAS presentations)

    To make 10g of spores in liquid (the very minimum that would be needed to make all the DRY POWDER used in the letters) would take 55 liters of liquid according to the NAS presentations.

    Ivins is more conservative – according to his estimate above it would take 100 liters of liquid.

    • Old Atlantic said

      Great find. This is also why Ivins and others like him were excluded. I

      Did Ivins to the exclusion of all others working for US government make the calculation of how many liters would be needed in the first year after the anthrax attacks? Are there not many documents still not made public where many many people make the same calculation? Isn’t this why Ivins and others like him were excluded?

      Don’t the prosecution notes of the USAO District of Columbia during the time that Hatfill was under investigation contain precisely such estimates? Don’t the prosecution notes of USAO DC exclude Ivins and others like him during the initial years because there are many documents stating the same calculation?

      Congress should ask for them. So should a grand jury or a state coroner in any jurisdiction of an anthrax injury or event related to these events.

  4. Reply to Ed Lake on Leahy letter. The Leahy letter had .871 grams based on the New York Times as Ed has related to us. The Laura Carey et al paper does record some runs consistent with a 2 liter flask producing this in a single run as Ed Lake quotes his expert source. But that is less than 1 in 4 runs as I recall. 3/4 of the time that doesn’t happen.

    One liter of CD was inoculated with one ml from freezer stock. See 2.9.2. page 12 of pdf and Table 6 page 20 of pdf.

  5. Ed I appreciate your efforts and I am sorry to strain your patience with basic questions. However, I know that you are more up to speed on the latest answers to these questions. The questions/issues may have remained the same, but to many the answers or possible answers have shifted as information comes out in dribs and drabs unlike the 26 volume supplement to the Warren Report.

    “questions that appear totally irrelevant to the case. ”

    Which appear to you are irrelevant?

    On math, you can type in exponential growth and the first hit is at Wiki. The Wiki articles in math are well written and are at several levels. Also read the logistic growth article at Wiki. You may need to read these several times, but then you have learned something valuable.

    • I appreciate your frank reply. The relevance of exponential growth to our discussion is well established in this thread. As the population increases the percentage rate of growth falls although the absolute may still rise.

      This is relevant because you extrapolate an exponential growth when its established that the percentage growth rate falls from capacity.

      Your own insightful example of a circular plate demonstrates that. The geometry of the plate would then impact the decline in growth rate as a problem with axial symmetry. This would lead one to use polar coordinates in the plane.

      In 3 dimensions, we have a more complicated problem, but the dimensionality of space does impact the process. Since you recognize geometry matters in the 2 dimensional example you gave you should recognize it in 3d.

      The logistic growth rate is a way of trying to have an approximation with a closed form solution.

      The 4 phases of growth I gave are a way for the less mathematical to understand the issues and to get somewhere in interpreting the numbers instead of waiting for the computer.

  6. In terms of the growth theory in Sep 2001 and Oct 2001, the Ivins did it side stands where?

    There were 200 ml from RMR-1029 that Ivins had use of at this time? RMR-1029 is 30 grams for 1 liter so Ivins had 6 grams as of September 11, 2001. Ivins just had to spike in a little foreign subtilis in the Sep 18 batch and some silicon in the October batch.

    The total grams recovered from letters was .871 grams from Leahy? Daschle is assumed the same?

    The first batch, the New York Post letter contained how many milligrams?

    The other letters in the first batch?

    The Florida letter containing anthrax was never recovered. But it was said to be intermediate between the other September ones and October?

    Which other September letters were recovered? How many are assumed or calculated to have been sent?

    What allowance for wastage at each stage does the Ivins did it theory allow for?

    What percentage of spores in the Leahy letter had silicon? This starts the process of a bound on the use of prior RMR-1029 without silicon and growth. If 75 percent had silicon, and RMR-1029 was 1/4, then pickup of silicon had to be 100 percent by the remaining 3/4.

    The foreign subtilis strain in the first letters was in which ones? This suggests a test run done first before using anthrax. So the Ivins did it hypothesis has to claim either cunning or accident.

    Any other details or points for this in terms of growth, processing and analysis?

    The FBI claims that other anthrax was grown by Ivins lab techs not made from RMR-1029 but frozen stocks. Is there any claim this was mixed in or Ivins somehow faked them out to grow that sent in the letters? That would mean he got them to spike it with silicon and foreign subtilis? Or he added the subtilis himself later?

    If the foreign subtilis was grown at Ft. Detrick and not added afterwards how did it not stay in Ft. Detrick in some amount?

    What are the amounts of anthrax in grams at each stage that Ivins had from just before growth through recovery giving allowances for wastage at each stage?

    • If Ivins had 6 grams of anthrax on Sep 11, 2009 from the 200ml possibly unaccounted for, why did he try to grow any? But then we have the foreign subtilis and the silicon? If Ivins was half crazy and in a huge hurry, wouldn’t he just use his 200ml or 6 grams and centrifuge and dry it and send it? Why get busy with growth with foreign subtilis and a huge amount of silicon?

  7. Old Atlantic said

    Something to think about is the exponential growth formula as a quotation model v. as an actual model of the intermediate population. Suppose that
    at time T, N(T) is observed as the population count. Suppose at t=0, its N(0). Then we can quote a growth rate g, such that

    exp(gT) = N(T)/N(0)

    g = ln(N(T)/N(0)/T)

    The actual path of N(t) from t=0 to T may not be given by the formula exp(gt).

    As we look at papers that quote a growth rate g, we have to ask whether they experimentally proved that the population at some set of intermediate times t_i was actually given by

    N(t_i) = exp(g t_i)

    where g is constant. Or instead is what is observed that

    N(t_i) = exp(g_i t_i)

    In this the log growth rate to each horizon is different for different horizons t_i.

    We can also think of the growth rate from t_i to t_{i+1}.

    N(t_{i+1}) = N(t_i) exp(g(i+1,i) (t_{i+1} – t_i))

  8. Old Atlantic said

    Reply to Ed Lake. I appreciate your detailed and thoughtful answers on these questions. I shall study your comments and try to give whatever information I find that is relevant as I can. I am working on another project and so my answers may come in dribbles over a few days.

    The following paper seems to be relevant to the issue of oxygen’s impact or requirement on growth for anthrax. (I have seen a number of off hand comments in my Internet search on this subject. I have seen comments that anthrax can grow without oxygen but needs oxygen to sporulate and does sporulate if the oxygen content is high.)

    Aeration of Bacillus anthracis in submerged fermentation.

    Warren W. Bowden.
    Chemical Corps
    Fort Detrick, Maryland

    Please look at table 2 and the comments before it and after it on page 4 to page 5 of the pdf.

    Table 2 seems to indicate production on the order of 1000 million spores in periods of 24 hours. That is 1 billion spores.

    Apparently some oxygen was absorbed under their experimental conditions, although I am still trying to understand their paper. Figure 4 gives oxygen absorption rates for Bacillus anthracis under their setup.

    The aim of the paper at least in part is to see if using extra air will help in growth of anthrax.

    “Shake flask aeration and submerged orifice aeration are compared.” From page 1 of pdf, 2nd column above the table.

    This came from the search bacillus anthracis oxygen. Now we can search
    “Aeration of Bacillus anthracis” in quote marks. This produces 1920 hits.

  9. Old Atlantic said

    Reply to Ed Lake.

    If the Ames anthrax is similar to the anthrax in the table of the article you linked to, and those are similar to subtilis, then we can use the Laura Carey et al paper.

    That paper is about growing actual grams of anthrax. The paper you linked to that Jim White linked to grows just micrograms to milligrams?

    The population growth curve starts at the starting level, lets say one bacterium and then increases exponentially as a rate. The rate slows down but absolute growth increases and reaches a maximum at the mid point. Then the absolute number added slows down until the population curve levels off.

    Starting off with more bacteria can move you along the exponential growth curve. But it doesn’t do much if you move along the boost portion of the curve.

    But the absolute increase in numbers occurs in the boost phase and declining growth phase.

    If you think of the midpoint as 5 days, the 4 phases can be thought of as roughly 2.5 days each. This is for a 10 day to full growth run for a fixed container.

    Ivins can have moved up the exponential part to the boost phase by adding more bacteria. But growth would then still be slow, e.g. 2.5 days. That gives lower percentage growth than in the exponential phase.

    Dumping from one flask into several flasks might accelerate growth but would require more flasks.

    The paper linked to also doesn’t it have lag column of 8 hours for anthrax? This lag means the initial phase before any growth begins?

    The bacteria may also turn off during growth. That is why some of the runs in the Laura Carey paper get only 100mg? See Table 6 of that paper on page 20 of their pdf as I recall. Those runs are because the bacteria don’t grow on schedule. But like some other species, at times they slow down and stop growing even though there is an abundance of food. Thus growth is variable and unpredictable for one or even several flasks.

    If Ivins used several flasks, but needed all to be good runs the probability of success in 48 hours given a lag time is low. In the October period, he only had the first weekend to grow on an uninterrupted basis.

  10. Reply to Ed Lake.

    Virulent means to humans not the speed of growth?

    Its not a matter of the person, but the nature of biological organisms. They don’t grow to schedule for any man.

    The Jim White article links to an article with a table showing 8 hour lag time I believe for anthrax. I am going by memory.

    Didn’t anthrax leak from the October letters?

    Exponential growth issue. The growth has 4 stages, exponential, boost, declining, and level off. These are names I have invented. Read the logistic growth curve article at Wiki. Growth has to decrease because of finite sources.

    Also exponential growth may require that there is shaking so that oxygen goes through the entire flask. The shaker is a large unit not a small one. Without shaking, growth won’t be exponential. Even with it, it may not.

    You mentioned media to start sporulation. If a bacterium sporulates, it stops growing. This then requires heating and shaking to get it back to the growth form. But Ivins didn’t have such a unit in his late night work.

  11. Ed, thanks for the references. I respect your hard work on anthrax and that you are still with the story on details like this.

  12. Old Atlantic said

    Most runs are dud runs even using good equipment under good conditions.

    Carey, Laurie F. ; St. Amant, Diane C. ; Guelta, Mark A.

    Production of Bacillus Spores as a Simulant for Biological Warfare Agents

    Look at the table on page 20 of the pdf. This is table 6. Look at the Yield in mg column. CD and CDSM are liquid and NSM are plates. The first two results ae 23.65 mg and 55.58 for CD and NSM. These are dud runss. These are 10 days and 8 days respectively for CD and NSM. So with CD it took 10 days to get 23.65 mg (instead of 1000 mg).
    This is .023 grams.

    So what happened? They used a C 25 New Brunswick floor incubator and shaker. But the bacteria didn’t grow very much.

    Note also that if you started with 23 mg you are at the end point of this run where growth stopped with plenty of food left. This means you can get a dud run even if you start with more bacteria, since this run stopped with that level and food still available.

    If 200 milligrams or less is a dud run, and it is for a mailer, then most of the runs are duds. There are only 9 over 500 mg. That is out of 35 runs. 20 runs are 150mg or below. That is over half. Six runs are exactly 0. That is one in six.

    They were using 1 liter flasks. This is why using flasks for runs of this size is not done at Ft. Detrick, they have Dugway do it with larger equipment. 24 of the 36 are below 275 mg. So for Ivins these would not be enough. 2/3 of the runs are too small, even assuming he had several flasks even of 2 liters.

    As Anonymous Scientist points out below, Ivins needed to produce on the order of 20 grams to begin with to end up with the amounts measured after losses from start to finish including during production and preparation stages.

    The FBI summary in footnote 25 talks of 12 to 18 hours as the standard protocol with plates. That is to grow micrograms or milligrams of spores or their equivalent.

    Carey et al had good equipment and good conditions. They didn’t have to stop their runs to hide the material and then reset it up in the middle to continue growth. They ran 14 days without hindrance. Even then, many runs were duds, 6 out of 36 had zero.

    14 out of 36 were below 100 mg and several were just above 100 mg and are not in that figure.

    18 of 36 were 119 mg or less. So 119 mg is the median.

  13. Old Atlantic said

    Further reply to Ed Lake whose comments I appreciate on this important subject.

    Consider a flask of bacillus that is stimulated to grow, which can take 8 hours or more. Plot the population of bacillus as a function of time. The population increases with time. Suppose its symmetric. The population starts low, so the line in absolute terms moves up slowly, then picks up speed, then at the mid point slows down and is increasing slowly at the end.

    Suppose that the growth time is 10 days for illustration. Then at 5 days, the population is 1/2 of its final value. If the growth stops then, the yield is 1/2 of letting it go another 5 days. If the growth is stopped after 2 days, the yield is substantially below 1/2. Since the rate of increase is highest at the midpoint, stopping a couple days before that misses a key growth period. So the yield may be 1/4 or even 1/8.

    This is the problem with Ivins doing it over the weekend. This especially applies to the weekend after Tuesday Sep 11, since he may have stopped growth early.

    Remember, there are still questions about when the first Florida letter was sent. That might have been before the mailing postmarked Tues Sep 18.

    The Laura Carey et al paper indicated growth times from 3 to 14 days with some duds that were stopped at 14 days despite no growth. So a period of 7 to 10 days as typical is not unreasonable.

    Moreover, the yield there was .2 grams per liter. This corresponds to the estimates of the 30 grams of RMR-1029 from 164 or 144 liters of production from Dugway primarily and a little from Ft. Detrick.

    So a 1 liter run that stops after 2 days, would likely pick up much less than .1 gram.

    Note that for a 10 day run, if you start with 1/8 of the final material, you are still a good deal before the midpoint. The midpoint is 1/2 of final. So using a larger starter amount has much less time saving than a naive doubling calculation.

    The curve of population has to have the general shape of monotonic increasing with asymptotes at zero initially and the final amount at the end. This means its maximum rate of increase has to be somewhere in the middle. It means it will have a tendency to be somewhat symmetric. So the geometry of the curve tells us that using 1/16 of a gram or 1/8 of a gram does not have the great time saving that a naive doubling calculation would imply.

  14. Old Atlantic said

    Reply to Ed Lake

    dP = r P(1-P/K) P dt

    Logistic growth. See Wiki. K is capacity or limit. As P rises, the growth rate falls. So the last doublings take much longer. If you miss the last 3 doublings you only get 1/8.

    “Ivins could have created a trillion bacteria in about 15 hours if he started with a single spore.”

    The Laura Carey et al paper disagrees. 1 Trillion is about 1 gram assuming the right spore size. They find it can take up to 14 days to get a gram using the C-25 New Brunswick floor shaker and incubator that weights 400 pounds. They find some runs are duds with almost zero.

    The numbers here agree with the calculation by Jim White linked to and an earlier post in January at this blog with a photo of the Dugway equipment used, which is large scale.

    “First, the media letters were 90 percent sporulation debris.”

    Could you provide a source and link? Is this in the new FBI report as well?

    “Second, the contents of the Leahy letter were weighed, and the spore powder weighed just .871 grams. That quantity could easily be grown in a single flask. ”

    Does the new FBI report have a quantity for these letters? The Laura Carey et al reports that lucky may get close to that number but other runs get close to zero and that is after 14 days on the unlucky. The lucky ones still take 3 or 4 days.

    Bear in mind there is a start period before growth begins. Do they call this a lag? See the paper linked to by Jim White. They have a lag column in a table that is about 8 hours, going by memory, please check.

    References as well:

    55 flasks of anthrax prep … now where can I hide these?

    Posted by Lew Weinstein on July 29, 2009

    There was also an article at this blog with a photo of the Dugway equipment.

    ” FBI anthrax investigation … statements from DOJ & FBI regarding the FBI’s anthrax science

    Posted by Lew Weinstein on January 10, 2010″

    This has the photo and points out it took the 164 Liters to make the 30 grams
    of RMR-1029. The Jim White discussion shows this may need to be adjusted slightly, but it stands up. The FBI itself in its report says that Ft. Detrick lacked the capacity to make this quantity. There is also a reference to Ft. Detrick waiting for more from Dugway just after 9/11/2001. If it was so easy to make this as you say, then Ft. Detrick would have made its own. They too could start with a larger amount and then constantly do the same trick since they always have more to do so. Is the reason that the growth rate slows down as you add more and so this trick doesn’t work as well in practice? Old Man Logistic gets in the way with the law of diminishing returns?


    Pages 33 to 35 have some interesting discussion of the procedure to grow anthrax. Ivins does say in this that they did grow anthrax at Ft. Detrick and what the procedures were. It also appears around page 35 that they were waiting for my anthrax from Dugway to do some testing.

    They also did have breakage, a topic discussed at the Jim White thread linked to above at the Firedoglake website.

  16. DXer said

    The US DOJ Summary states: “In an email to a former colleague, dated September 17, 2001, on the day before the first letters were postmarked, Dr. Ivins discussed his improving home life.”

    Where is this in the record?

    If in the record, what is the citation?

    If it is not in the record, what sort of practice is it for the DOJ to make an assertion based on something not provided? It relates to the critical “window of mailing.” The DOJ alleges September 17 is when Ivins mailed the letters.

    What time was the September 17 email to his former colleague?

    Why did the USAMRIID Commander acquiesce in the withholding of Ivins’ emails for the periods of mailing given the FOIA statute’s obligation?

    • DXer said

      The Summary, apparently by AUSA Kenneth Kohl, states that in an e-mail on September 17, 2001 – the day the first letters were mailed – “I haven’t been feeling so good lately because of all that’s going on. I really can’t talk to [my wife], and I don’t say that much to [Former Colleague #2] or anyone else. The group I’m in is only moderately helpful. I’m glad some of us are going to Covance tomorrow with some vaccine. It will be good to get away. I wish I had someone here that I could really open up to at times like this.”

      What time was this email?

      Has it been produced?

      (I ask even though I believe I have systematically read the entire record and don’t see it; but am asking in case I missed it. The best practice for the United States Department of Justice would have been to cite a batestamped record.

      Note that at one point the author relies on this email as evidence of murder because Dr. Ivins is saying his home life is improving and later in the same report the author relies on it for the proposition that his home life is not good and he can’t talk to his wife.

      I’ve got a novel idea for ya, Ken. The email’s relevance to the charge of murder is the time that it was sent — we can then block out that time as to the time of travel. The rest is bullshit spin. You are trying to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.

  17. Suppose Ivins needed 50 liters and he grew it 2 liters at a time. So he needed 25 growths. Suppose the average one was 7 days. Then that is 175 days. Ignoring the gaps and other problems, 175 days over 2 days per weekend is 87.5 weekends. That is 1.68 years roughly. So he had to be doing this every weekend for about 2 years.

    The FBI report around page 26 talks about lab techs who grew spores for Ivins but the FBI says not derived from RMR-1029. The lab techs used frozen spores not RMR-1029 ones. The FBI says it couldn’t find what happened to those spores.

    So Ivins had to use the same equipment as his lab techs used but use it on the weekend and them not notice it for 2 years of this going on. Plus they may have run over the weekend using the equipment.

    Where did he hide it?

  18. DXer said

    When the DOJ says he was secretly preparing the anthrax to mail to the Senators, the DOJ notes that for five days, each day, he made notations regarding the health of some mice involved in a study. Methinks the lawyer who wrote this doesn’t spend much time talking to his pet mice to ask how they are feeling. And the lab notebooks, on their face, in fact contradict the claims by the government. Where has the DOJ produced these pages of the Lab Notebook reflecting his observation on the mice?

    The lead AUSA last month was said — by the District Court judge who dismissed the Blackwater indictments — to have deliberately mischaracterized the evidence and then implausibly testified about what he had done. So can someone point me to the Lab Notebook pages where Dr. Ivins made these notations about the mice for each of those 5 nights?

    Does anyone else find it curious that no one is putting their name to the Summary? Is that standard?

  19. Jim Whites comes to 3 x 10^13 spores in RMR-1029. This is based on 164 Liters before the adjustment for discarded. This apparently went into 2 one liter flasks that were later combined after usage? I am not sure I understand this at this stage. So there is a potential factor of 2 to be worried about.

    If 1 x 10^12 spores equals 1 gram of spores, then there are 30 grams of spore equivalents. There is a question if this doesn’t apply to the two flasks that made RMR-1029.

    However, ignoring that for the moment, 30/164 = .18. This corresponds to the approximately .2 grams per liter calculation I made earlier from the Laura Carey paper averaging the yields they reported.

    After all the adjustments of Jim White posits that the 30 gram equivalent comes from 144 liters. 30/144 is .208.

    Using the figure.2 grams per liter, to produce 5 grams takes 25 liters. This is the number I have used in earlier posts.

    Jim White comes out with 44 to 72 liters as the production he estimates needed for the letters based on the grams he assumes is in the letters.

    “The overall yield for clean spores in RMR-1029 comes out to 2.1 X 10^11 per L of original culture, averaged over the 144 L of culture that contributed to it. ”

    if 10^12 = 1 gram of spores which assumes a size of spore, then

    2.1 x 10^11 is about .2 gram per liter. Multiplied by 150 L that gives 30 grams approximately the number White is assuming is in RMR-1029.

    The figures need further review to reconcile. However, the Laura Carey et al paper seems roughly in line give or take a factor of 2 with the Jim White calculations.

  20. Looking at the De Siano paper in some more detail, I would not conclude from its graphs that it indicates what would happen in large scale production runs where growth is to the limit of a one or two liter flask.

    The slowdown of population growth can be modeled with a logistic

    dP = r P(1-P/K) P dt

    where P is amount of bacteria at time t, K is the limit or capacity, r is some rate. This may not be the correct equation but it serves as a discussion piece. As P approaches K, the growth rate slows down. This is the notation from Wiki Logistic curve. In some of Ivins papers with coauthors, the logistic is mentioned. I have not read them.

    The search logistic bacteria growth gives some hits, so this model may be used in this area.

  21. The Jim White piece is impressive. If one goes with 1 trillion spores equals 1 gram of anthrax, which has a size of spore implicitly, then 10^12 = 1 trillion spores = 1 gram. This is the figure discussed in prior years.

    Jim White assumes a graph in a paper he links to indicates the time to complete growth of a gram or more of spores in a flask. However, that paper may not have tested that.

    The Laura Carey et al paper shows for subtilis it takes 3 to 14 days and is variable with 14 day runs ending with almost nothing in some cases.

    There is a big difference in growth to a gram or more and growth of a microgram or milligram. The growth rate slows as the food is consumed approaching the limits of the container. However, if one is 3 generations off of completion, then one gets 1/8 of a gram instead of a gram if one gets a gram at completion. This is a big difference. The last 3 generations may take longer because of the slow down effect in growth rates.

    • Anonymous scientist said

      You shouldn’t forget to take into account what 1g of spores created in a flask actually translates to in reality. One has to compare this with the 0.87g of material actually recovered from the Leahy letter.

      Do the following thought experiment. Weigh out exactly 1g of a powder with a similar particle size to anthrax spores – let’s just pretend talcum powder would suffice for the sake of this argument.

      Now add a bunch of water to that 1g of powder – say 500ml. Your job is now to extract as much of that powder as possible from the water. What kind of yield are you going to get? Certainly you won’t get the whole 1g – some powder will remain stuck to the sides of the beaker. Now use a spatula and transfer the powder to a piece of paper, fold it up, put it in an envelope and send it to yourself. Some of the powder is going to stick to your spatula, some is simply going to float into the air and be lost. Some is going to get absorbed into the pores of the paper, and some is going to get lost from the envelope as it’s handled in the mail system.

      Now you need to open the envelope and try to extract as much as possible. Again some will stick to your spatula, some will float away and some will be left embedded in the paper.

      I estimate you will be lucky if you wind up with 1/3 of a gram of powder in your weighing vessel. So when 0.87g of spores was recovered from the Leahy envelope this means that up to 3g of spores suspended in water was required to make that happen.

      If all the envelopes contained similar amounts to Leahy this means up to 20g of spores suspended in water were required. RMR1029 contained 30g of spores suspended in water – and required enormous resources to manufacture – with several large scale production runs at Dugway.

      • Old Atlantic said

        Excellent points. In a few words we get to the need to make 20 grams which is 2/3 as big as the original job that took Dugway sized equipment to do. There is nothing hidden here. No complicated detail.

  22. J. said

    You may need to update your post on Jim White’s analysis.

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